Iowa City Office Building, Parking Ramp/Condo Project in the Works

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa – A new multistory office building and a parking ramp that includes townhomes are part of an Iowa City project unveiled Wednesday.

MidWestOne Financial Group plans to construct a building up to six stories high where the parking lot is at the old Sabin School site at 509 S. Dubuque St., a couple of blocks south of downtown.

The bank also wants a 560-spot parking ramp that includes up to 24 townhomes on another part of the property. The ramp would be owned and operated by the city.

Jeff Davidson, Iowa City's planning and community development director, said it would be the first stand-alone office building built in the downtown area since the 1970s.

He said the project could spur further redevelopment in the neighborhood, known as Riverfront Crossings, which the city hopes will undergo a major transformation in the coming decades.

"This is a significant commitment to downtown and a significant economic development commitment to Iowa City," Davidson said.

The City Council's Economic Development Committee received a presentation on the project Wednesday and voted to recommend the full council sign a letter of intent to move forward with the plan. The council will consider that at a meeting next month, Davidson said.

The bank, the city and the University of Iowa are involved in the project, which traces its roots back to the 2008 flood.

The UI plans to build a new School of Music on Clinton Street to replace the riverfront facility damaged in the flood. That property included the MidWestOne loan center at 325 S. Clinton St.

The UI bought the school district property last year and sold part of it to MidWestOne, which is operating the loan center out of the old school building. The bank has told the UI it plans to exercise its option to buy the rest of the property.

Charlie Funk, CEO and president of MidWestOne, said the bank was reluctant to relocate the loan center but did so to help the UI and after it was assured it could remain near downtown and have a drive-through. Funk is on The Gazette Company's board of directors.

"We need to create a win, win, win where the community wins and the university wins and MidWestOne wins," he said, adding this project would do that.

The bank would occupy the first three floors of the new office building, with two stories for lease or sale and a penthouse above, said Kevin Monson of Iowa City-based Neumann Monson Architects, which is working on the project.

Construction could start this fall and take 16 months to complete, he said. A cost estimate is not yet available.

The other structure would have 22 to 24 townhomes and a 560-spot parking ramp.

The city's cost is estimated at $10 million, Davidson said. The project would take priority over a similarly sized parking ramp a block to the northeast that the city last year decided to put on the back burner. Davidson said he still wants the city to return to that project a few years from now.

The townhomes would have two bedrooms and be two levels each. They would all have front-door access to the street.

They would be 1,100 square feet for the ground-level homes and 1,300 square feet for those above. They could be for rent or for sale. Prices are not set, but they are to be priced to appeal to young professionals interested in living near downtown.

Construction could not start until the office building is finished and the Sabin building is demolished, Monson said.

The bank will not ask for financial assistance from the city, Funk said. A third-party developer is expected to construct the buildings and it's possible that company could seek city funds for the top two floors of the office building and for the housing, Davidson said.

MidWestOne plans to keep its headquarters at 102 S. Clinton St. downtown but this summer will start renovation work so the exterior of the building looks as it did when it opened in the 1930s. That will include adding a cornice around the top edge of the Clinton and Washington streets sides to replace the original one removed years ago due to water damage, Monson said.

The lobby also will be renovated to its original design, he said.
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